Houston Poets Spotlight, July 2022: Jabari Aziz Ra
Jabari Aziz Ra

If you have ever seen Jabari Aziz Ra perform his poetry in person, it is a guaranteed fact that you have never forgotten him. Not only is the brother’s 6’8 frame memorable, his style and delivery are so powerful, unique and jazzy that his words stay with you like a John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald or Miles Davis tune.

Jabari Aziz Ra is a Houston-area poet (and musician) whose work has been heard nationwide. As a teenager in the 1970s, Ra wandered into Houston’s Black Arts Center, interested in poetry and music. He left Texas for Illinois via a basketball scholarship, and there found his vocation via the poetry workshops of Chicago’s Organization of Black American Culture.

Ra returned to Houston, and from that home base, he’s performed across the country, and here in Houston at the Ensemble Theatre, Harper Alternative School, U.S. Department of Labor, the Shrine Cultural Center & Bookstore, SHAPE Community Center, and countless other universities, K-12 schools, community centers and community celebrations including Kwanzaa and SHAPE’s annual Pan African Festival.

Additionally, Ra is a past artist in residence at Houston’s Mid-town Art Center as a poet. Moreover, Ra has authored several volumes of poetry.

Below is just one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of poems this brother has penned. This one was created in honor of Reverend Albert B. Cleage Jr., the “Father of Black Liberation Theology.”

Black Orthodox Jazz Written with the Master Teacher in Mind

A Poem of Praise by Jabari Aziz Ra

becus’ of hates’ trip being stubborn, scared as hell

to lose that vicious economic grip,

like stick pushed into an ant bed

came like the rush of some mighty wind

for King spoke

police dogs bit

billy clubs hit

tear gas spread & anybody Black got smashed in their head

but long before love’s choice spoke

was the voice of the drums

a symphony in Black.

JARAMOGI’S sound, like our historic music,

Has come down thru history’s pages

Like the stages reborn as gospel,

Rap as the youths’ drum beat,

Even rock on souls’ horn

JARAMOGI BLOWS LIKE TRAIN TO GET WHAT’S NOT ALWAYS A JOY DONE

THE MASTER TEACHER SMILES & THE BIRD HEARD THE TROMBONE,

Sounding like BLUE MITCHELL, LEE MORGAN, CLIFFORD BROWN, MILES DAVIS

The Master Teacher’s love words are like a root flute taking flight to the highest note range.

Leading us from slave boats, JARAMOGI is a wisdom knower

Calling all Nile RIVER ROWERS.

He is a TRUTH SEED SOWER, A BLACK RHYTHM FLOWER.

ALL YEAR PEACEFULL RIVER FLOW TO THE LOVE

& WISDOM KNOWN, WRITTEN AS AN HORNOR TO THE MASTER TEACHER A SOULFUL HORN BLOWER…